Technology decision makers in enterprises are evolving. They have more knowledge about the functionality of their systems. They understand a range of different technologies from IT to AV and integration between the two. They want a say in what helps make their companies run.
Information is becoming a more accessible commodity in every aspect of business. Online courses, journals, webinars, blog posts, do-it-yourself projects, and other, new ways of spreading information are increasing and becoming more in depth across the web. With enough time and the right key words, an average Joe can learn about any number of disciplines. Even if you can’t become an expert, you can become serviceable, and you can gain knowledge.
It may be a result of this influx of information that technology decision makers are becoming more knowledgeable across the board. It may be a result of a generation that has received a higher level of education than those that came before. It may be an inflation of capable and qualified personnel that have grown and worked with different technologies as they were introduced. It is hard to pinpoint the reasons for it, but the outcome is a smarter, more involved class of technology decision makers across the board.
Yesterday’s Tech Decision Maker
Let’s say, for example, a video wall in a presentation room, outfitted with audio equipment and connectivity for a range of devices, needs to be installed in an office. The technology decision maker calls upon an integrator to propose a solution for the different needs that the higher-ups have laid out. The integration firm comes in and outlines their solution, noting the products they will use and the timeframe that they will be able to complete the install in.
Not long ago, this is where the technology decision maker would agree to a price and step away from the project to a certain extent. They would oversee and speak with the integrators to make sure the schedule is being adhered to. This technology decision maker didn’t have the knowledge to converse with the integrator. They didn’t understand why the different technologies would work best for the needs, and, in most cases, didn’t care. They understood that to earn their payment and keep their reputation the integrator would build a functional system. That was enough, once.
“[When preparing for our project] I took a lot of time looking for products,” says Mark Lesnau, a technology decision maker for Lowe CE. “I went to InfoComm, I went to trade shows, I spent hours online.” When Mark was looking for the correct solution, even before he chose an integrator, he did his research.
Today, technology decision makers are becoming active participants in the proposal process. They understand the differences in sound quality between a ceiling microphone system and a desktop device. They know the pros and cons of a projection systems versus a flat panel displays. They have researched and have their own opinions about what will suit their company best. They may not have the expertise to install a system, but they understand the mechanics behind the install and want a say in some of the overall decisions.
Inclusion: The New Integration
When it comes down to it, you, the tech decision maker, are the bankroll in your relationship with an integrator. You should have the ability to question, suggest, and tailor a proposed system to suit your needs the way that you want. Your company will be paying for the system, often a substantial amount. Therefore, you should understand what you are paying for and ensure you are getting the most bang for your buck. Integrators at large are not only accepting of, but are welcoming this new trend.
Consider yesterday’s technology decision maker. This person says, ‘I want to be able to videoconference. Make it happen.’ The integrator proposes a system, explains how it will allow them to videoconference, and sets off to work. The problem is, when the decision maker said videoconferencing, this person assumed the ability to share content would be included in the system.
Meanwhile, the integrator is working on a system that simply videoconferences. This leads to a solution with only half the capabilities that the technology decision maker wanted. To go back and add in content sharing will cost more money and time. The technology decision maker doesn’t want to pay because it was insinuated, while the integrator refuses to fix the problem because it was never laid out. Huge problems arose from a simple misunderstanding and lack of proper communication.
Today, technology decision makers understand the difference. They are asking more of integrators, but those questions are leading to specific system requirements that allow integrators to create the correct solution. Integrators are a creative bunch. If there is a will, there is almost always a way. When technology decision makers create a dialogue with integrators, that will is now being communicated.
Integrators are experts in their field, they know what they are talking about, and they are not afraid to prove it. Ask questions, and they will help you to understand. Look for integrators that will work with you to meet your needs. Let them know what you expect of them, let them create a solution that meets your needs, and make them explain how their system is going to work for your enterprise.
The Devil in the Details
This doesn’t mean being overbearing and demanding too much from them. It simply means holding them accountable for what they tell you they can accomplish. If you want content sharing capabilities, let them give you options. As intelligent as technology decision makers are, integrators are trained and practiced. They know what is going to work, and they will explain to you why they want to use certain products and solutions.
“The first thing is overall trust, and understanding the complexity of the project,” says Jim Stephens, an integrator at Whitlock. “As an end user, you have to understand what you’re buying, why you’re buying it, etc. The designers and engineers have to understand why we’re integrating it. Everybody has to understand that things will be difficult at times. You’re always going to have little hiccups. It doesn’t mean it’s not a great product.”
The integrator will explain the solution and offer certain options. The integrator isn’t trying to trick you, the integrator is trying to give you the best system that works together. In the end, functionality is the most important thing. If you can forego some of your preferences to fit your company’s needs, you need to do that. You might have wanted a video wall, but a projection system will link up with company devices with less auxiliary devices attached to the system. You need to decide which is more important to you. Allow the integrator to help.
All you want is a working system. Hold the integrator accountable, yes, but understand when compromise is needed. The technology decision maker of yesterday may have had little say, but that doesn’t mean you need to be a tyrant to get the correct solution. Being informed means understanding when to defer to the correct advice, versus knowing when to put your foot down and demand more of an integrator.
Forming a Partnership
The most successful projects are those in which the technology decision maker and integrator see one another as equals. They form a partnership and work together to meet the goals of the system. Integrators want to meet company goals when forming a system. Technology decision makers want the same thing.
“I felt that our project manager even before we hired him, was engaged, he was in the trenches with us,” says Lauren Kruglak, a technology lead at BBK Worldwide. “He wasn’t doing a sales call. He was 100 percent partner but extremely dependent. What they did that other vendors did not do was, they listened, and were able to say with this vision, we think this is the solution.
“Of course there was tweaking of that,” says Kruglak, “but they were actively involved, meeting with us every week.”
There will be bumps and bruises along the path. People will disagree, arguments will be had, and both sides will cross their arms and refuse to relent at points. As it is with any good team. Only the technology decision maker knows that the company truly wants, and only the integrator knows how to get it done. When both parties are passionate, knowledgeable, and working together, the most creative solutions arise. Make sure to choose an integrator that you trust and that works well with you. Soon enough you will both be smiling in front of a reveal of the new project.
“It’s really important for your readers to understand technology, and understand that it’s difficult,” says Stephens. “You just have to pick the right partner and trust in your partner. If you trust in your partner and your partner trusts in you, you can accomplish great things.”